What is Tachycardia?

a woman laughing with her friend

Tachycardia is one of the most common arrhythmias. Learn more about the different types of tachycardia and how to help detect and manage it.

That heart racing feeling never feels good, and it might be more than nerves or excitement. Some people have tachycardia, a condition where their heart rate is greater than 100 beats per minute (bpm). Generally, a heart rate above 100 bpm at rest is considered fast for most adults. Tachycardia is one of the most common arrhythmias, along with atrial fibrillation and bradycardia. With nearly 50 million people affected by arrhythmias worldwide, it’s important to understand how to detect these irregular heartbeats and how to manage them.

Types of tachycardia

There are several types of tachycardia and each one may be treated and managed differently depending on your overall health and, of course, your doctor’s recommendations. These are the three main types of tachycardia.

Sinus tachycardia

A normal increase in heart rate greater than 100 bpm is considered sinus tachycardia. You may experience sinus tachycardia during exercise, or if you feel anxious or scared. While your heart may be beating faster than at rest in sinus tachycardia, it is not interfering with other electrical impulses in the heart.1

Atrial or supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)

An abnormally fast heart rate that begins in the upper chambers of the heart is called atrial or supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). Instead of this rhythm occuring in the heart’s natural pacemaker, the sinoatrial node, it travels through a different pathway present since birth.1,2

Ventricular tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia is a rapid heart rate that begins in the lower chambers of the heart, keeping them from filling completely between contractions. This may comprise blood flow to the rest of your body. Ventricular tachycardia may be a side effect of certain drugs or medications. It may also be caused by conditions that affect your heart’s electrical conduction system, such as a lack of blood flow to the coronary artery.1

Detecting tachycardia

Some people with tachycardia may not even realize they have it, as they don’t experience any distinct symptoms. Others, however, may feel heart palpitations, lightheadedness, chest pressure, or fatigue. Tachycardia can be detected with an electrocardiogram (EKG), a non-invasive test that measures your heart’s electrical activity. You can even record your EKG at home with a personal EKG device like KardiaMobile, which allows you to record a medical-grade EKG in just 30 seconds and send it to your physician for review remotely. You may also have your EKG taken at a doctor’s office or hospital. If you are experiencing tachycardia symptoms, or have even detected tachycardia on KardiaMobile, be sure to consult your physician. They can help you create a care plan that’s right for not only your heart, but your lifestyle as well.

iPhone showing the Kardia app with a tachycardia result

Managing tachycardia

If you’ve been diagnosed with tachycardia by a physician, it’s important to learn how to manage your condition in order to keep your heart healthy and functioning properly. In some cases, if left untreated, ventricular tachycardia may lead to serious heart complications such as sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, or heart failure. Luckily, there are treatment options available to help you manage tachycardia, including medication, surgery, or routine monitoring. Using a personal EKG device at home can help you monitor tachycardia or other arrhythmias. AliveCor’s KardiaMobile and KardiaMobile 6L allow you take an EKG the moment you feel an irregular symptom, giving you real-time data to share with your physician or family members, and offering greater peace of mind. As always, you should consult your physician for guidance on diagnosing, treating, and managing any heart condition.

Prevention

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with tachycardia, or you’re just interested in living a more heart-healthy lifestyle—you can help prevent serious heart conditions by making adjustments to your routine and lifestyle. These changes may include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Develop an exercise routine
  • Eat a more balanced diet
  • Manage your blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Take your prescribed medications as directed

Learn more about adopting a heart-healthy diet, managing your blood pressure, and exercising with arrhythmias.

Sources:
  1. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/about-arrhythmia/tachycardia--fast-heart-rate
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tachycardia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355127